A team of four current Houghton College biology students – led by Dr. Rebecca Williams, assistant professor of biology at the college – will present research on freshwater fish conducted in Letchworth State Park. The free and public event will be held on November 20, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at the Humphrey Nature Center in the park.
Williams has long focused her research on gene expression as a measure of pollution. After making connections with individuals at Letchworth, however, she and her collaborative research class – including biology students Steven Anderson ’19, Alyson DeMerchant ’18, Annemarie Ranger ’18, and Halie Smith ’18 – began conducting a fish survey at the park. The team is completing a manuscript to be submitted for publication at the end of the semester.
The goal of the project is to provide more complete data for Letchworth State Park regarding the Genesee River as a whole by using hoop nets to catch and identify fish species in the region. Fish surveys give insight into the species present and their population levels, both of which are indicators of environmental health and direct future management or recovery of different species. The group has collected seven different species of fish from the Genesee River over its four planned catch-and-release sessions this semester.
Such collaborative research opportunities are hallmarks of the sciences at Houghton, providing students with opportunities to work alongside faculty members in an experiential learning environment. Classroom knowledge is put into practice while solving real-world problems that serve the community, the region, and the world. Ranger echoes the importance of this concept, noting how she “found that this project provided valuable real-world experience in research, working with a lab group, and submitting publications.”